Fall regional trade shows are moving online, and so are their exhibits. In fact some virtual exhibit halls went live in early August, and two will be available for booksellers to consult long after the show season ends next month.
The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association is putting on the New Voices New Rooms show with the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, and the two groups will share a single New Voices New Rooms exhibit hall. In addition to their own conferences, the three regionals in the West—Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, the California Independent Booksellers Alliance, and the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association—are building a joint online exhibit space, Tri-West Exhibits. Only the New England Independent Booksellers Association will be going it alone, with an exhibit hall only for its members.
As a joint show, New Voices is anticipating a particularly large virtual booth space, with SIBA’s Linda-Marie Barrett estimating as many as 75 booths. At press time, the show had signed dozens of publishers and bookseller service groups, ranging from ABA and Binc to University of Virginia Press. During the show, New Voices will hold daily “office hours” so booksellers can meet with publishers face-to-face as they would at a physical booth. Some publishers’ booths will have their own links to office hours and offer opportunities to meet authors, only now these meetups will be virtual. Booksellers will also be able to browse virtual booths to get digital galleys and in some cases sign up for physical galleys, a key feature of physical booths.
New Voices plans to keep its exhibit hall live through the end of 2020, as does NEIBA. “It is one of my pitches to the publishers,” says NEIBA executive director Beth Ineson. “We will keep booths up through the fourth quarter, extending their visibility to booksellers and increasing the value proposition for publishers.” And to boost its holiday catalog offerings, NEIBA is giving an extra marketing push with links from the virtual booth for the holiday catalog to publishers’ virtual booth spaces.
But perhaps the most ambitious virtual exhibit is that of Tri-West. “It’s not anything like an in-person exhibit hall,” notes MPIBA executive director Heather Duncan. “We know we can’t replicate that experience. We are excited by the opportunities a virtual exhibit hall offers.”
Up for one month, beginning September 30, the regions have booked over 90 exhibitors and four sponsors, promoting a mix of fall and winter/spring titles, like the shows themselves. Publishers will have the opportunity to post videos, have spaces for booksellers to sign up for ARCs, feature show specials, and arrange office hours and meetups with authors.